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Advanced sorting of single-walled carbon nanotubes by nonlinear density-gradient ultracentrifugation

Abstract

Existing methods for growing single-walled carbon nanotubes produce samples with a range of structures and electronic properties, but many potential applications require pure nanotube samples. Density-gradient ultracentrifugation has recently emerged as a technique for sorting as-grown mixtures of single-walled nanotubes into their distinct (n,m) structural forms, but to date this approach has been limited to samples containing only a small number of nanotube structures, and has often required repeated density-gradient ultracentrifugation processing. Here, we report that the use of tailored nonlinear density gradients can significantly improve density-gradient ultracentrifugation separations. We show that highly polydisperse samples of single-walled nanotubes grown by the HiPco method are readily sorted in a single step to give fractions enriched in any of ten different (n,m) species. Furthermore, minor variants of the method allow separation of the mirror-image isomers (enantiomers) of seven (n,m) species. Optimization of this approach was aided by the development of instrumentation that spectroscopically maps nanotube contents inside undisturbed centrifuge tubes.

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Figure 1: Sorting of HiPco SWNTs by (n,m) structure using single-step nonlinear DGU.
Figure 2: Optical characterization of sorted SWNT fractions.
Figure 3: In situ vertical spectral mapping of a centrifuge tube after nonlinear DGU.
Figure 4: Nonlinear DGU separation of optically active enantiomers of (6,5).
Figure 5: Nonlinear DGU separation of optically active enantiomers of (8,3) and (8,4).
Figure 6: Nonlinear DGU separation of optically active enantiomers of (6,4) and (7,3).

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank W. Rice, R. Simonette and K.M. Beckingham for experimental advice. We are grateful to the National Science Foundation (grant no. CHE-09098097) and the Welch Foundation (grant no. C-0807) for supporting this research.

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Contributions

S.G. performed the experiments. S.M.B. and R.B.W. planned the experiments. All authors analysed data and discussed the results. R.B.W. and S.M.B. constructed the vertical mapping spectrofluorometer. S.G. and R.B.W. co-wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. Bruce Weisman.

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Competing interests

R.B.W. has an equity interest in a company that produces one of the instruments used in this study.

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Ghosh, S., Bachilo, S. & Weisman, R. Advanced sorting of single-walled carbon nanotubes by nonlinear density-gradient ultracentrifugation. Nature Nanotech 5, 443–450 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2010.68

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